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Norwalk police sergeant arrested after fatal collision investigation

Norwalk Police Sgt. Shannon Sherry, at an NPD ceremony. (Harold F. Cobin)

A Norwalk Police sergeant has been arrested by warrant on criminal and motor vehicle charges following a ten-month investigation by State Police of a two-vehicle collision that resulted in a fatality.

Shannon James Sherry, 48, of Fairfield, turned himself in Thursday at Troop H in Hartford and was charged with Misconduct with a Motor Vehicle and Failure to Drive in the Proper Lane.

Misconduct with a Motor Vehicle entails criminal negligence with a motor vehicle that causes a death. It is a D felony and can result in a prison sentence of up to five years.

In a news release, State Police said Sherry was processed and then released on $25,000 bond. He is to appear for arraignment in State Superior Court in New Britain March 5.

Sherry’s arrest is the result of an incident last April 19 on Interstate 84 in Southington in which his car collided with a pickup truck.

Sherry was driving a 2023 Tesla Model 3 with his daughter as a front-seat passenger, State Police said. Neither reported being injured.

The other vehicle involved was a 2003 Ford F250 XLT Super Duty pickup driven by its lone occupant, Elijah Joseph Vallier, 24, of New Britain.

Following the collision, Vallier, who was ejected from the pickup, was pronounced dead at the scene by paramedics as the result of injuries he sustained.
It was later determined Vallier was not wearing a seatbelt.

According to the affidavit State Police prepared to obtain an arrest warrant, Sherry provided an on-scene sworn written statement to a trooper explaining he was eastbound in the center lane of I-84 in the area of Exit 30 “and I didn’t see anybody in the right lane.”

Shannon explained he signaled to move from the center to the right lane, the affidavit says, “but the grey truck sideswiped the passenger side of his vehicle and the truck spun out.”

The affidavit goes on to say Sherry said he stopped his car on the right shoulder, exited his vehicle and saw the truck was upside down on the westbound side of I-84. He said he ran over to check on the driver, but someone was telling people to get away, so he returned to his car to check on his daughter.

A trooper obtained a sworn written statement from a motorist who was in the left lane behind Sherry’s car. According to the affidavit, the motorist said the Tesla applied its brakes, activated its turn signal, and then crossed all lanes of traffic and sideswiped the pickup truck, causing it to flip and roll across all lanes of traffic, with it coming to rest in in the oncoming westbound lanes of I-84.

That motorist’s car had a dashboard camera that recorded the collision, State Police said.

As described by a state trooper, the video shows the Tesla in the left lane. Its blinker activates and it crosses the center lane and enters the right lane without stopping in the center lane, colliding with the driver’s side of the pickup.

The pickup then veers across all lanes of traffic, proceeds into the center median and “enters into a rollover event.”

During the rollover, the pickup’s driver can be seen being ejected, the description says, while the Tesla is seen stopped on the right shoulder.

A sworn statement by another driver who witnessed the collision closely matches the description provided by the first, stating the Tesla traveled from the left lane to the right, striking the pickup and causing its driver to lose control, according to the affidavit.

This witness said it appeared the Tesla was attempting to get off the highway at Exit 30.

The affidavit says a State Police detective examined both vehicles involved in the accident and found neither had abnormalities or mechanical defects that would have been a causative or contributing factor in the crash. Also, neither vehicle had an open recall by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The detective prepared a collision reconstruction analysis that concluded that at approximately 4:25 p.m. Sherry was driving in the left lane of I-84 east and approaching Exit 30 “at a speed consistent with surrounding traffic.”

The analysis found that the Tesla moved across two lanes in one movement “in a late attempt to exit the highway via exit 30.”

As the Tesla entered the right lane it impacted the pickup, causing it to move left across the highway, through the median divider, and into the westbound lanes of I-84, “where it came to an uncontrolled final rest, on its roof, in the left shoulder and left lane.”

As a result of the collision sequence, Elijah Vallier, the operator of the Ford F250, was ejected through the rear window opening and killed, the analysis says.

The detective found the cause of the crash was that Sherry made an unsafe lane change movement. He also found that Sherry “demonstrated driver inattention, in that there was insufficient, or no attention, to activities critical for safe driving.”

Sherry is the department’s day shift patrol supervisor. He was appointed a Norwalk officer in 2004, according to the department’s seniority list.
In a news release, Norwalk Police Chief James Walsh said Sherry has been placed on administrative leave.

“Now that the criminal investigation has been completed, the Norwalk Police Department Internal Affairs Unit will begin the internal investigation into this incident,” Walsh said.

Sherry has been cooperative throughout the investigation, Walsh said, adding, “Our deepest condolences go out to the family of Elijah Joseph Vallier and everyone affected by this traffic incident.”

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